Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Gem's Of The London Science Museum...

Hi everyone. Today we were on a day out in London. After taking in the London Eye, Big Ben, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and many stations of the London Underground, we took in the famous Science Museum in South Kensington. Overall, there were many interesting things to see but, naturally, it was the few pieces of steam machinery that stood out to me! The first item was a beautiful 1903-built Mill Engine. Built by the Burnley Ironworks Company, the engine worked at Harle Syke Mill, finally being retired in 1970. The huge engine stands in "Energy Hall" on the Main Entrance to the Museum. I don't know how often she is in steam but she certainly was today! I must admit, the engine turned over effortlessly and looked a treat; beautifully preserved. I could have watched her all day! The engineer informed me that this huge machine is powered by steam created in a modern, electric boiler. (I must admit, it did surprise me that the engine was in steam inside a busy, modern museum!). She is however, so I was told, "hardly able to move herself". I did wonder wether she would need some rather severe rebushing but apparently she just isn't provided with enough steam. Below, you can see the huge Crank on the left-side...
Below are the engine's huge cylinders...
I must admit, the Burnley engine was fantastic to see; I don't think I've ever seen a horizontal engine in such a good cosmetic condition. Moving along we saw one of Trevithick's engines before moving into the next hall. There, in front of us, stood the remains of Stephenson's 1929-built 0-2-2 locomotive; "Rocket". Now, surely everybody knows of "Rocket"?! She was the most advanced steam locomotive of her day; encorporating a 25 fire-tube boiler, a blastpipe and 35-degree inclined cylinders. Previous designs had used only one or two large flue-tubes and then verticle cylinders. Stephenson's "Rocket" was the leader of her day. She was however not without misfortune. On the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (September 15th 1830), "Rocket" struck William Huskisson; Liverpool's member of Parliament. Huskisson died from his injuries a short while later. After a varied life, "Rocket" was donated to the Patent Office Museum in 1862. As you can see below, "Rocket" has been modified since building. She has been given a proper smokebox and had her cylinders lowered to an almost horizontal position. Even so, this is the real "Rocket" and she is still, without doubt, one of the most important locomotives in railway development history. And so, here she is, stuffed and mounted inside the museum...
Now, the next piece was one that I was very surprised to find. This is "Columbine", a 2-2-2 'Single Wheeler', built for the Grand Junction Railway in 1845 (built at Crewe Works). She is owned by the National Railway Museum in York and was GJR No49 (LNWR No1868). This is another stuffed and mounted machine of course and, seperated from her tender, she stands not far from "Rocket"...
The large single wheel can be seen below. These huge diameter driving wheels were an aid to preventing overheating of cylinders. In these days of rather primitive lubrication, any method of slowing down the running speed of the pistons was gratefully accepted...
Moving on from beautiful "Columbine", there was a very early Aveiling & Porter Tractor to be seen. Another nice piece...
The rest of the museum is pretty much non-steam but is still well worth a look. I'd go again just to see the Burnley engine! (Can't be FREE Admission). After our trip to this museum, and the equally FREE Natural History Museum next door, we reboarded the Tube and headed off for the bright lights of Picadilly Circus!...
Thanks for reading folks. We're off to Oxford Street...

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